Kid gloves for the Myanmar junta

Pragmatic handling of relations with Myanmar does not equate to rolling out the red carpet for its ruling junta

In order not to offend the Senior General Than Shwe of Myanmar’s State Peace and Development Council, the Indian government has refused entry to a number of speakers scheduled to speak at a pro-democracy conference organised by George Fernandes, India’s former defence minister. That is a shame.

Foreign policy is best pursued with pragmatism, so while the Indian government could have discussed whatever business it wanted with the current rulers of Myanmar, it was also necessary for Indians to express their concerns over manner in which the junta is treating the Myanmarese people. If flag-waving protestors and conference delegates are an eyesore to the General, than those sore eyes are well deserved. In fact, such demonstrations would have given the Indian government additional leverage in its discussions with the General, to show that it is dealing with the junta despite popular disapproval.

By pulling yet another neighbourhood dictator out of the international doghouse, India is already according the junta more legitimacy than it deserves. Those pro-democracy speakers must be at least as welcome in India as the General is.

10 thoughts on “Kid gloves for the Myanmar junta”

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  2. Wasn’t it during the previous govt we really went after building new bridges with Myanmar and opened up new areas of co-operation including defence. And of course George F was very much there as the Defence Minister. Never did he raise this issue then. Trust George F to do what he is doing now. George needs to understand that national interests take higher priority than his personal interest. This is the second time he is embarrassed us. Dont complain if the Myanmarese provide shelter to our militants.

  3. Blaming previous governments is one of the escape routes we always take… two wrongs dont make a right. Politicians of all shades believe in and say one thing when out of office, and do very different things when in power.

    I’m more concerned with what they do whilst in power.

    Plus, there is no moral equivalence between the Myanmarese junta sheltering terrorists and the India allowing pro-democracy activists to speak at a conference. You dont see those pro-democracy activists blowing up civilians in Myanmar do you?

  4. A reply to Nitin

    Got your point. Do you really think that we really have a democracy in real terms and have the right to pontificate. We are on the track but have a long way to go. Personally I do not support the military junta in Myanmar but it is for their people to decide. If the people decide no govt can stay in power for long.

  5. Sondur,

    I really think we have a democracy in real terms. I’m not sure whether we should ‘pontificate’ on morality, but India must speak up (and follow-up) when it comes to issues of national interest. Having a military dictatorship that is getting closer and closer to China, and has some links to Pakistan (remember Musharraf sent his nuclear scientists to Myanmar to avoid handing them over to the US), is not in India’s interests. A democratic Myanmar is in India’s interests for a variety of reasons.

    And how do you think the people in Myanmar can throw off a military dictatorship that represses any show of dissent? Aung San Suu Kyi is in jail, after having won elections in 1989. It is another form of moral escapism to state that the Myanmar people can somehow ‘decide’. Two generations of Myanmarese people have been emasculated by the junta…the country has hollowed out.

    What you say about people deciding on how long a government stays in power is applicable to India…which is why India is a democracy in real terms.

    NB: May I request you not to type out the entire comment in CAPITAL letters. On the internet, this is considered bad etiquette, equivalent to shouting. I have modified your previous comments because I assumed that you did not intend to shout.

  6. thanks for correcting me. no intention of being rude. Isn’t china our neighbour too.we seem to always look the otherway on chinese human rights violations, not a single disapproval in the pastn or there will be in the future .maybe power eqation dictates.

  7. Sondur,

    Power equation certainly dictates. India’s sheltering the Dalai Lama’s government is sufficient moral statement dont you think. Imagine how India would have reacted if Pakistan or China were to host a Kashmir-government-in-exile.

    But seriously, human rights violations in China are very much overplayed by the popular Western media. By many indicators, the Chinese people have greater economic freedom than Indians. Of course they cant vote in elections, and China is not a liberal democracy, but it does not mean that it represses its own people in the manner Myanmar or North Korea do.

  8. Precisely why we ended up with ’62. notwithstanding that i do fully agree with stand we had taken in the dalai lama’s case.things have changed and the reason is our national interest.that should be the bottom line.may i say your arguments are interesting and maytake a lot of space in replying.i dont want to be stumped again.

  9. Sondur,

    Please feel free to share your complete response. Disagreement is welcome…

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